The National Trust has published an eye-opening report which reveals a third of the properties in its care have strong links with slavery and colonialism.
Among the 93 properties mentioned are six Surrey sites including Clandon Park, Polesden Lacey and Leith Hill Tower. The report also lists 29 places that have links with successful compensation claims for slave ownership.
On September 21 the National Trust published the report, which was commissioned a year ago, that explores the sometimes uncomfortable role Britain played in global history.
The research looks at properties which relate to wealth connected to the proceeds of slavery, ownership of a company of business connected to the enslavement of people and a history of opposition to the abolition of slavery, for example.
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John Orna-Ornstein, the National Trust’s Director of Culture and Engagement, said: “These histories are sometimes very painful and difficult to consider. They make us question our assumptions about the past, and yet they can also deepen and enrich our understanding of our economic status, our remarkable built heritage and the art, objects, places and spaces we have today and look after for future generations.”
Dr Tarnya Cooper, Curatorial and Collections Director, said the report is the “fullest account to date” of the sites’ connections to colonialism and historic slavery.
She added: “Colonialism and slavery were central to the national economy from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Around a third of the places now in our care have direct connections to wider colonial histories, often in a way that’s reflected in collections, materials and records that are visible at those places.”
Below you will find a list of the properties in and around Surrey which have been named in the National Trust’s gazetteer, and underneath each entry are the report’s findings.
The Ankerwycke Estate, which lies on the banks of the River Thames near Old Windsor, was bought in the early 19th Century by John Blagrove the Younger, a plantation owner with Welsh connections.
The estate is famously home to the National Trust’s oldest tree; the Ankerwycke Yew which is 2,500 years old.
Blagrove spent 25 years in Jamaica before returning to England in 1805. When he died in 1824 he was the owner of 1,500 enslaved men and women in Jamaica. In his will, he left each of them a dollar ‘as a small token of my regard for their faithful and affectionate service and willing labours to myself and my family’, the reports says.
Blagrove also inherited substantial wealth from his grandfather who was the owner of the Orange Valley, Unity, Pembroke, Magotty and Cardiff Hall Estates in Jamaica.
Just over the border in Kent, and within close proximity of east Surrey residents, is Westerham’s National Trust property Chartwell.
It was the grand family home of Sir Winston Churchill from 1922 until his death in 1965.
One of the longest-serving political figures in British history, Churchill was Prime Minister twice including during World War Two and during the Bengal Famine of 1943, the British response to the latter has been heavily criticised, says the report.
It adds that Churchill was Secretary of State for the colonies from 1921 to 1922. He also opposed the Government of India Act in 1935, which granted India a degree of self-governance.
Clandon Park, Guildford
Clandon Park is home to a modern ruin after the enormous fire of 2015 tore through the West Clandon grand house. It features on the National Trust’s list because of its connections with the Onslow family.
In 1708, Thomas Onslow, 2nd Baron Onslow, married Elizabeth Knight who had inherited a substantial fortune from her uncle. It included a plantation in Jamaica that was reliant on the labour of enslaved people, and the proceeds of his business transporting and trading enslaved people. This money was used to rebuild Clandon house, the reports says.
The Onslow family went on to build strong connections with merchants in the City of London and took part in overseas trade and early colonialism.
Thomas Onslow was a founder of the Royal Exchange Assurance, which underwrote the risks of ships trading in enslaved people. The family managed their plantation remotely until it was sold by the 3rd Earl of Onslow around 1832, the report continued.
Claremont was bought in 1714 by Thomas Pelham-Holles; the Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Pelham-Holles held numerous political posts, including Secretary of State for the Southern Department responsible for the American Colonies, and he was Prime Minister twice.
After his death in 1768, the estate changed hands and was bought by Robert Clive who has gained his wealth in India. He committed suicide in 1774 and never saw Claremont completed.
Charles Rose Ellis, first Baron Seaford, was the next to purchase Claremont in around 1798. He was a descendant of Colonel John Ellis, who established the family fortune by settling in Jamaica in 1665. Seaford inherited from his father a Jamaican sugar plantation of 404 acres, including 349 enslaved people, worth £20,000.
According to the report, he was a leading promoter of anti-abolitionist, West Indian interests in Parliament.
Hatchlands Park, Guildford
The house was built in 1756 for Admiral Edward Boscawen and his wife Frances, or ‘Fanny’. The Admiral was assigned to protect British interests in India, and in 1748 Fanny was given the ‘gift’ of an enslaved child by a Lieutenant Bemish, the reports says.
Fanny named the child Tom Pride and he is referred to several times in published letters.
Leith Hill Tower and countryside, Dorking
The tower was built in 1765 and contains a spiral staircase of 78 steps. It provides beautiful views of the Surrey countryside from its Dorking standpoint. By the historic landmark there are hollows on slopes and it is thought that the materials needed to build the tower were quarried on site.
According to the report, the tower has had a succession of wealthy landowners including William Philip Perrin.
Perrin inherited five sugar plantations in Jamaica, with 135 enslaved people, from his father. Transatlantic communication evidencing receipts for cargoes of sugar, lists and invoices for enslaved people, still exist today, the report says.
Perrin used his money to buy Leith Hill in 1795. He restored and added to the height of the tower which, by that time, had become derelict.
Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham
Polesden Lacey is an Edwardian house and estate nestled in the North Downs, close to Dorking. In the early eighteenth century, Polesden Lacey was owned by the Moore family.
Arthur Moore was a financier and MP who held numerous positions involving him in colonial affairs and the slave trade, the report states.
These included being appointed Commissioner of Trade and Plantations he also had directorships of the Royal African Company and the South Sea Company. Moore used this wealth to build Fetcham Park in Leatherhead and buy Polesden Lacey. It was sold to Sir Francis Geary in 1748.